Commentary: Iowa social workers deserve more than our thanks

Commentary: Iowa social workers deserve more than our thanks

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March is National Social Work Month. This month is a time to celebrate the workers who have dedicated their lives to serving the Iowa children and families who are so often overlooked by our society.

They put in long hours doing some of the most difficult work in the state. They ensure children have a safe, loving home environment and walk alongside individuals during the darkest days of their lives. And due to a critical workforce shortage across Iowa, they spend extra time away from their own loved ones to ensure the families in their care receive the support and resources they need to thrive.

National Social Work Month is a time to give thanks for this workforce that provides such life-changing services every day. But this year, thanking our social workers isn’t enough. Iowa must do more to financially support this critical workforce.

Marlie Atwood

Marlie Atwood

At my organization, Lutheran Services in Iowa (LSI), our social workers empower hundreds of Iowa children, adults, and families every day through child abuse prevention and services to families and youth in crisis. But due to Iowa’s historic low unemployment rate, along with service reimbursement rates from the state that have remained stagnant for more than five years, human services agencies – including LSI – face extreme challenges in recruiting and retaining qualified social workers.

These social workers play a crucial role in building stronger communities. And as caseloads continue to rise, many are facing burnout, fatigue, and secondary trauma while going years without raises.

We must do better to support our neighbors and community members who have made it their mission to serve individuals and families in need of critical care.

This month, take the time to lift up and thank the social workers in your life. But don’t stop there. Contact your state legislators and encourage them to support Iowa’s human services workforce.

Marlie Atwood is the director of Clinical Services at LSI. She can be reached at Marlie.Atwood@LSIowa.org.

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